DISTURBO is one of the strangest live performances I have ever experienced. It was weird, creepy, queer, cool, and extremely beautiful.
I have never seen circus performance art prior to this, so I was walking into relatively unknown territory. I guessed from the title and location that it might be similar to Movie World’s Fright Night. DISTURBO, however, was nothing like I have ever seen before. It was unexpected, outrageous, alien, and thought-provoking. This performance transported me to another dimension for the evening, and I am so here for it. It was exceptional!
Staged inside a disused warehouse, this performance had very post-apocalyptic dystopia vibes. The piece centres around two circus performers (Jay and Felix) as they explore the darkness of the space. There is no dialogue, except for an audio-clip of ASMR that is very theatrically lip-synced by Jay. I feel that this piece is very much left to the interpretation of the individual viewer. For this reason, I have found it difficult to review and describe. I will, however, do my best by explaining my own response, which was exceedingly visceral and memory-provoking.
Some say that the object of art is to arouse a response to those viewing it, whether that be an evocation of emotion, synaesthesia, memory, or visualisation. DISTURBO 100% prompted several deeply personal evocations for me, which shaped my own experience and interpretation of the performance.
I have insomnia. Sometimes when I am having an insomniac episode my mind and body wanders to the dark corners of both mind and space. During these periods I may have moments of great creativity, being inspired by an all-encompassing darkness and how I am situated within it. Other times my mind may focus on the darkness of a space, fixating on it, to the point where it becomes so bright and overwhelmingly beautiful. Shining a light on the unknown and, sometimes, disturbing darkness that literally surrounds me can be isolating. Occasionally insomnia will create a constant darkness which surrounds me everywhere I go. Even throughout the day, I am unable to escape darkness and it becomes increasingly difficult to light my way. DISTURBO for me felt like a manifestation of that feeling: an almost creeping sensation of being trapped with and within the darkness of myself and needing to do something, either to provoke or repress it.
Another way that I interpreted the piece was through the lens of a relationship. DISTURBO made me think of being inside a desolate landscape and the compromises one might make to get the affection of someone. At one point Felix pulls at Jay’s mask several times, and in the lighting, it looked as though they were pulling on Jay’s skin. I felt that this could be a depiction of how in relationships we can often be moulded and shaped into someone completely different, or throughout the course of a relationship we may just re-shape and form naturally into a new version of ourselves. To begin with, Jay rejects this moulding of skin, however, as Felix continues, Jay slowly compromises and accepts this new version of themselves. Eventually the mask is removed altogether, and the two performers can embrace and illuminate the emerged Jay.
The lighting and sound were brilliant. I have never seen so many innovative ways of illuminating the beauty of a space through lighting. The performers both engaged with the various light sources, as they slowly revealed more of themselves to the audience. One chilling use of lighting projected the performers shadow onto the wall behind them. This created a large imposing figure which slowly filled the space with more darkness as it grew larger. This kind of reminded me of Slenderman. The soundscape, created by Jay, was affective; there were several times throughout the performance where I literally got chills down my spine. These effects made the site feel dank and even darker than it already was. I felt that the sound and lighting effects lead to an overall dystopic atmosphere that felt almost like a video game (it reminded me of the game Hollow Knight).
Overall, I understood DISTURBO as a journey of self-discovery and acceptance of the darkness within yourself. By shining a light on this darkness, even in the hardest of times, we might be able to acknowledge it, sit with it, and finally, embrace it. It was certainly an interesting end to my personal Anywhere Festival Program. I would highly recommend experiencing it for yourself while you can.